1691 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. John Marston

Gerard Langbaine, in Account of the English Dramatick Poets (1691) 347-52.



An Author that liv'd in the Reign of King James the First, who was a Contributor to the Stage in his Time, by Eight Plays which were approv'd by the Audience at the Black-fryars, and one of them, viz. Dutch Curtezan, was some few Years since, reviv'd with success on the present Stage, under the Title of The Revenge, or The Match in New-gate.

The place of our Author's Birth, and Family, are to me unknown, neither can I recover other Information of him, than what I learnt from the Testimony of his Bookseller; "That he was free from all Obscene Speeches, which is the chief cause that makes Plays to be so odious unto most Men. That he abhorr'd such Writers and their Works, and profest himself an Enemy to all such as stufft their Scenes with Ribaldry, and  larded their Lines with Scurrilous Taunts and Jests: So that whatsoever even in the Spring of his Years, he presented upon the private and publick Theatre, in his Autumn and Declining Age he needed not to be asham'd of." An Excellent Character! and fit for the Imitation of our Dramatists; most of whom would be thought to have throughly studyed Horace: I could wish therefore, that they which know him so well, would call to Mind and practice his Advice; which is thus exprest,

Silvis deducti caveant, me judice, Fauni,—
Ne nimium teneres juvenentur versibus unquam,
Aut immunda crepent, ignominiosaque dicta.
Offenduntur enim quibus est equus, & pater & res.

But leaving this, I shall give the Reader an Account of his Plays in their Accustom'd Order: having first inform'd him, that six of our Author's Plays are collected into one Volume, being publisht under the Title of The Works of Mr. John Marston, printed octavo Lond. 1633. and dedicated to the Right Honourable, the Lady Elizabeth Carie, Viscountess Faulkland. According to the Alphabet, I am to begin with, viz.

Antonio and Melida, a History acted by the Children of Paul's, printed octavo Lond. 1633.

Antonio's Revenge, or The Second part of Antonio and Melida; frequently acted by the Children of Paul's, printed in octavo. These two Plays were likewise printed in quarto above 30 Years before this new Edition, viz. 1602.

Dutch Curtezan, a Comedy divers times presented at the Black-fryars, by the Children of the Queens Majesties Revels; printed in octavo Lond. 1633. This Play was publisht long before in quarto viz. 1605. Cockledemoy's cheating Mrs. Mulligrub the Vintner's Wife, of the Goblet and the Salmon, is borrow'd from an old French Book called Les Contes du Monde: see the same Story in English, in a Book of Novels, call'd The Palace of Pleasure, in the last Novel.

Insatiate Countess, a Tragedy acted at the White-fryars, printed quarto Lond. 1603. It being a common custom with our Author to disguise his Story, and to personate real Persons, under feign'd Characters: I am perswaded that in this Play, under the Title of Isabella, the Insatiable Countess of Suevia; he meant Joane the First Queen of Jerusalem, Naples, and Sicily: and I doubt not but the Reader who will compare the Play with the History, will assent to my conjecture. Many are the Writers that have related her Life, as Collenuccio, Simmoneta, Villani, Montius, &c. but I refer my English Reader to Dr. Fuller's Prophane State. Ch. 2. That her Life has been the Subject not only of History, but of Poetry and Novels also, is manifest from this Play, and the Novels of Bandello, who has related her Story under the Title of The Inordinate Life of The Countess of Celant. This Novel is translated into French by Belleforest, Tom. 2. Nov. 20. and possibly our Author might build his Play on this Foundation. The like Story is related in God's Revenge against Adultery, under the Name of Anne of Werdenberg, Dutchess of Ulme: See Hist. 5.

Male Content, a Tragicomedy, the first Design being laid by Mr. Webster, was corrected and augmented by our Author, printed 4to. Lond. 1604. and dedicated in the following Stile to Ben Johnson: "Benjamini Johnsonio, Poetae Elegantissimo, Gravissimo, Amico suo candido & cordato, Johannes Marston, Musarum Alumnus, asperam hanc suam Thaliam D. D." Notwithstanding our Authors profession of Friendship, he afterwards could not refrain from reflecting on Mr. Johnson, on Account of his Sejanus, and Catiline, as the Reader will find in the perusal of his Epistle to Sophonisba: "Know (says he) that I have not labour'd in this Poem to relate any thing as an Historian, but to enlarge every thing as a Poet. To transcribe Authors, quote Authorities, and translate Latin Prose Orations into English Blank-Verse, hath in this Subject been the least aim of my Studies." That Mr. Johnson is here meant, will I presume be evident to any that are acquainted with his Works, and will compare the Orations in Salust, with those in Catiline. On what provocations our Author thus censured his Friend I know not, but this Custom has been practic'd in all Ages; the Old Proverb being verify'd in Poets as well as Whores, Two of a Trade can never agree. 'Tis within the Memory of Man, that a Play has been dedicated to the late witty Earl of Rochester, and an Essay upon Satyr from the same Hand has bespatter'd his Reputation: So true it is that some Poets

Are still prepar'd to praise or to abhor us,
Satyr they have and Panegyrick for us.

But begging pardon for this Digression, I return to the Play, which I take to be an honest general Satyr, and not (as some malicious Enemies endeavour'd to perswade the World) design'd to strike at any particular Persons.

Parasitaster, or The Fawn, a Comedy divers times presented at the Black-fryars by the Children of the Queens Majesties Revels; printed 8vo. Lond. 1633. This Play was formerly printed in quarto 1606. The Plot of Dulcimel her cozening the Duke by a pretended Discovery of Tiberio's Love to her, is borrow'd from Boccace's Novels, Day 3. Nov. 3. This Novel is made use of as an Incident in several other Plays, as Flora's Vagaries, Souldiers Fortune; and Nymphadoro's Humour of Loving the whole Sex, Act. 3. Sc. 1. is copy'd from Ovid's Amor. Lib. 2. Eleg. 4.

What you will, a Comedy printed 8vo. Lond. 1633. Francisco's zanying the Person and Humour of Albano, is an incident in several Plays, as Mr. Cowley's Guardian, Albumazer, &c. tho' I presume the Design was first copy'd from Plautus his Amphitruo. This I take to be one of our Authors best Plays.

Wonder of Women, or Sophonisba her Tragedy, sundry times acted at the Black-fryars, and printed in 8vo. Lond. 1633. This Play is founded on History; see Livy, Dec. 3. Lib. 10. Corn. Nepos in Vit. Annibal. Polibius, Appian, Orosius. The English Reader may read this Story lively describ'd by the Judicious Sir W. Rawleigh, in his History of the World, Book the 5.

Mr. Phillips, and Mr. Winstanley have created him the Author of a Play call'd The Faithful Shepherd, which I am confident is none of his; and have omitted his Satyrs, which render'd him more eminent than his Dramatick Poetry. The Title is The Scourge of Villany, in three Books of Satyrs, printed in 8vo. Lond. 1598. Mr. Fitz-Geoffry above-mention'd, in the Account of Daniel and Johnson, writ in their Commendation the following Hexastick [author's note: Affaniarium].

AD JOHANNEM MARSTONEM.
Gloria Marstoni Satyrarum proxima primae,
Primaque, fas primas si numerare duas;
Sin primam duplicare nefas, tua gloria saltem
Marstoni primae proxima semper eris.
Nec te paeniteat stationis, Jane: secundus,
Cum duo sint tantum, est neuter; at ambo pares.